Jim Messina has made a name for himself on both sides of the recording-studio glass, whether he’s producing and engineering an album, or playing on one. He’s also toured extensively throughout his 50-plus-year career, which will include a Saturday, Nov. 12 show presented by Payomet Performing Arts Center at Cape Cinema in Dennis.
Messina is particularly excited about the upcoming show because he’ll be with the new band that he has put together based out of Tennessee, featuring James Frazier on keyboards, Steve Nieves on saxophone, Ben King on bass and Jack Bruno on drums.
Longtime musician Jim Messina will perform Nov. 12 at Cape Cinema in a concert presented by Payomet Performing Arts Center.
Messina’s set lists typically include songs from his time in Buffalo Springfield, Poco, and Loggins and Messina — something he says is no easy feat to find others to pull off. He also says he hopes to start introducing more of his solo work, which has included Latin-based arrangements, into a set and “I think with these players, I now have the opportunity to do that.”
A start while still in high school
To say Messina got an early start in the music industry would be an understatement. Following the release of a surf-rock record he made as a guitarist with high school band Jim Messina and the Jesters, the high school senior was recruited by KZAY radio DJ Glen Edwards to help produce music for Ibus Records. Young Messina would leave his parents’ house in the Grand Terrace area of California on the weekends to go to Hollywood and learn the craft of making music in a professional setting.
“Well, neither have I,” Messina says about ever hearing of anyone else that young being chosen to jump into that kind of producing role. “I was quite surprised that he had any interest in me doing that. I guess he saw something that I didn’t, and my parents were very poor and I was very lucky to (be able to) buy a guitar, so to me it was quite a wonderful opportunity.”
Most bands he produced were new artists on the label, bands most people have probably never heard of, like Rick and Ron, and the Rising Suns. Then he pursued another career under a new mentor.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it as a musician, there were just too many great players, session players, at that time,” says Messina, “So I decided to apprentice under (KLRA DJ Bob Hudson) as an engineer and started my career as a recording engineer.”
Surprising role with Buffalo Springfield
In 1966, he was tasked with engineering Buffalo Springfield’s “Buffalo Springfield Again” album, though he wasn’t familiar with the band’s singer, David Crosby. “I thought it was Bing Crosby’s son,” he jokes.
When he later returned as both engineer and producer for Buffalo Springfield’s final album, “Last Time Around,” he was given an additional role he was not anticipating: bass player.
“Their bass player got himself busted,” he says. “I had already worked with them for a year and knew their tunes and, being a musician myself, most of that stuff stuck in my brain, so when the time came, I was prepared. I knew the parts better than anyone because I was sitting there listening to them.”
Musician Jim Messina has had a long solo career, but also has been part of the bands Loggins and Messina, Poco and Buffalo Springfield.
Although Buffalo Springfield broke up soon after the release of the album, Messina looks back fondly on his brief time in the band and the life it led him to later.
“I really enjoyed learning the music in depth because it’s one thing to press the record button and do edits and stuff, and quite a different thing to begin rehearsals,” he says. “Neil (Young) was wonderful to work with, always very nice and kind to me, as was Stephen (Stills). Richie (Furay) really became a friend of mine during that whole experience. It was exciting. I really identified with where they were going and what they were trying to do.”
That opportunity would open the door for a trifecta of a music career that allowed Messina to play, produce and often engineer songs for his bands that would follow.
Poco, Loggins and Messina, and going solo
Following the breakup of Buffalo Springfield, Messina (now on guitar) and Furay went on to create Poco, a group that helped lay the blueprint for the country rock genre. Poco’s song “Crazy Love” made it to #1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart for 1979.
Another unexpected collaboration, this time with Kenny Loggins, came next for Messina, marking a successful run through the ‘70s with 16 million albums sold. Since then, Messina has had a solid solo career while continuing to wear many different hats and reuniting with both Poco and Loggins.
“For me, engineering and performing and producing are all part of the needle,” Messina says. “It’s not that one is more important than the other. They all go to make my creativity be as unique and original as possible.”
What makes for a good song?
Having spent time on both sides of the glass, what does Messina think makes for a well-written song, one that can stand the test of time?
It all depends on the listener and what they’re experiencing in life when they hear the song.
“I think it’s all very personal,” he says. “It’s what resonates with me. It’s the emotionality and the performances. Sometimes it’s the sophistication, sometimes it’s the simplicity, but, again, it’s how it all fits together, whether it’s a complicated jazz piece or a simple folk song. It’s just what resonates with me and I’m sure a song that resonates with me would not necessarily resonate with somebody else.”
He points to the Beatles’ “When I’m 64” as an example.
“I was 24 when they wrote that and I thought ‘Well that’s a long time away’ and a week ago, I thought ‘Jeez I’m 74 now,’” Messina says. “So songs can have different meanings at different times and you can feel good, bad or indifferent depending on what point in time you hear it.”
If Messina’s career sounds like a whirlwind to you, you’re not alone. He’s adapted and changed over the years and isn’t afraid to acknowledge there were times when he doubted himself. But if the upcoming show at Cape Cinema is any indication, Messina has managed to carve himself a spot that he deserves.
“I went from being a young boy learning all of the cool stuff from The Ventures and Dick Dale and Chuck Berry, to really not knowing what to do — being confused, trying to be a session player, which was when I really kind of gave it up — to coming back into music as a bass player and then just being around music in general and trying to see where my voice would fit as a guitarist,” he says. “After a while, I started realizing that I just needed to find my own way, and what I did was I stopped using a pick and started just playing with my fingers to see what would happen and eventually started to develop a style.”
How to see Jim Messina
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov.12
Where: Cape Cinema, 35 Hope Lane, Dennis
Original Article can be found here.